June 6, 2023
Green Caucus can’t support Bill 37 without progress towards substantive equality
FREDERICTON – Last week Green Party Leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon wrote to Premier Higgs and Official Opposition Leader Susan Holt to inform them that the Green Caucus cannot support Bill 37: An Act to Amend the Official Languages Act unless amendments are made at the committee stage to ensure continued progress towards the substantive equality of New Brunswick’s two official languages.
“While I am glad to see the Premier’s openness to re-instituting a mandated review of the Act, my caucus colleagues and I view this as a continuation of the status quo,” said Coon. “Each review of the Official Languages Act must move New Brunswick closer to the achievement of substantive equality of our two official languages. The continuation of the status quo is not progress.”
In his letter, Coon said that his caucus’s support for Bill 37 is contingent on the Premier supporting an amendment to create a Legislative Standing Committee on Official Languages. This was the top recommendation of Commissioners Finn and McLaughlin in their review of the Act. It is something that Green House Leader and the MLA for Kent North Kevin Arseneau has been advocating for since 2019, when he first proposed it to the Procedures, Privileges and Legislative Officers Committee.
“It’s high time we create a standing committee on official languages in New Brunswick to encourage sincere, ongoing discussion on the issue and identify constructive, sustainable avenues for progress,” said Arseneau. “This is a tangible action that the Premier can take to leave a lasting positive impact on the province.”
In his response to Coon’s letter, Premier Higgs stated that he is not open to supporting the creation of a legislative committee, saying that he “will not support a motion that will duplicate work and weigh down current processes.”
“It is unfortunate that the Premier once again rejects a role for the Legislative Assembly to engage citizens through a legislative committee on an important and ongoing commitment to New Brunswickers,” added Coon. “Without this amendment, my Caucus and I cannot support this bill.”